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NHS will cease to exist if we only ever throw taxpayers’ money at it, warns Labour

By Laura Donnelly, Health Editor, for The Telegraph 2 November 2022

Wes Streeting says health service needs ‘significant additional resources’ to reduce backlogs, but a boost to funding is not the only answer

Wes Streeting says he he understands the high levels of 'public anxiety' about the NHS CREDIT: Jay Williams

Labour has warned that ministers cannot keep just throwing “ever increasing taxpayers’ money” at the NHS, as the party called for sweeping reforms.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said putting “ever increasing amounts of taxpayers’ money into a 20th century model of care” could bring about the demise of the health service, as he called for sweeping reforms.

The Labour MP made the case as NHS officials seek to close a £7 billion funding gap next year, on top of planned increases in the health budget.

Mr Streeting said the health service needed “significant additional resources”, Ainsisting that Labour’s own plans to expand the NHS workforce showed “the cavalry is coming”.

But he said it would be a mistake to keep increasing NHS budgets without making significant changes to modernise the system, in ways which would save money and lives.

"I think it is true to say that if the answer to the NHS challenge in the long-term is only ever increasing amounts of taxpayers’ money into a 20th century model of care, then there isn't going to be an NHS in the future,” he told a King’s Fund conference in London.

“There certainly isn’t going to be an NHS that is publicly funded and free at points of use in the future,” he added, saying that he understood the high levels of “public anxiety” about the NHS.

Mr Streeting called for an overhaul of current systems, with a shift to boost earlier diagnosis of cancer.

“In terms of our model of care, we spend far too much money on late diagnosis and therefore later treatment, which is more expensive and doesn't deliver as good outcomes for patients,” he said.

“We need to get there far earlier with earliest diagnostics and treatments, which will not only deliver better outcomes for patients but better value for money for the taxpayer. "

At the same conference, a senior health official warned that the NHS is stuck in a “1940s” model that carries out millions of “pointless” follow-up checks, at the expense of those awaiting diagnosis and treatment.

Jim Mackey, who is in charge of efforts to clear backlogs, said that of 122 million outpatient appointments that take place annually, around half are “review” appointments - which are often a “waste of time” and mean millions more are delayed starting treatment.

Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, told the same conference that the health service is set to face tougher challenges in coming years than it ever did during the pandemic.

Amanda Pritchard speaking at The King's Fund conference on Wednesday CREDIT: Caleb Mitchell Photography

She issued the warning as she confirmed officials are in talks with the Government about securing extra resources.

“When I started this job, I think I said at the time the pandemic would be the hardest thing I ever had to do,” she said.

However, she said that now: “It's the months and years ahead that will bring the most complex challenges.”

NHS will cease to exist if we only ever throw taxpayers’ money at it, warns Labour
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